Hui Wa'a Kaukahi

FAQs about Hui Wa'a Kaukahi

  1. What does that name mean, and how do you pronounce it?
  2. Who are you guys?
  3. How is the Club organized?
  4. What do you do?
  5. How long are your day paddles, and how difficult are they?
  6. Who is in charge of the "official" paddles?
  7. What kind of boats do you use?
  8. Where and when do you meet?
  9. What happens at your meetings?
  10. How do I join the club?
  11. How much does membership cost?
  12. Are you affiliated with the American Canoe Association?
  13. Do you have any commercial affiliations with kayak stores?

What does that name mean, and how do you pronounce it?

"Hui Wa'a Kaukahi" is Hawaiian for a group or association of single (solo) canoes, and is pronounced HUU-ee VAH-ah kow-KAH-hee. It's okay if you find it difficult to say - several of our longtime members seem to have difficulty pronouncing it as well (but we're not going to change it).

Who are you guys?

Audrey Sutherland, authorA Brief History: In the early 1980s, author and pioneer kayaker Audrey Sutherland began teaching courses in ocean kayaking at the University of Hawaii's School of Continuing Education (adult ed). Many of her former students bought inflatable kayaks and continued to call each other for weekend paddles long after "graduation," and finally decided to get organized as a club. The first meeting was in the UH Lecture Hall in May, 1982, when Mark Rognstad was elected first president (he thought of the name, it's his fault), and we continued to meet at UH until they discovered that nobody was still actually a registered student there any more, and we had to move on. Anna Bannana's Bar, Honolulu After a brief stint at the Liliha State Library, we met for many years at the Second Floor at the notorious Anna Bannana's Bar, until our move to our long-time digs at Church Of The Crossroads in 1995. Our arrangement with the Church ended in 2008, and we are presently meeting at Paki Hale on Paki Avenue, on the north side of Kapiolani Park, Honolulu.

We still have four or five members who were at that first meeting, including Audrey, who was the special speaker at our 20th Anniversary party.

Members: Our members range from students (real ones) to professors, fishermen, architects, surfers, lawyers, carpenters, and a few old retired fuddy-duddies that can still keep up with, and occasionally lead, the pack. Our youngest member presently is 18 or 19, and the age (and identity) of our oldest member is a closely-held secret. Probably late 70s. Our youngest active member to date was 12 years old and one couple took their 6-month-old daughter on day paddles with regularity. Members have brought back slide shows of their adventures kayaking in Fiji, Tahiti, Alaska, New Hampshire, Ireland, Chile and Italy. We have a few members who are in military service, and a couple of out-of-state residents who seem to like to spend their winters kayaking in Hawaii rather than shovelling snow in Canada or whereever (go figure).

How are you ..umm.. organized?

The Hui is registered in the State of Hawaii as a Not-For-Profit Corporation, for liability reasons that should be obvious. As such, we have a President (some years we have two), Vice President, Secretary and a Treasurer, elected each year in October by the membership. The Officers then nominate, wheedle or draft up to 12 "volunteers" to form the Steerage Board† who in turn elect a Chairperson for one year. From this group are formed a number of special Commitees that oversee things like fishing tournaments and T-shirt sales. At least once a year, this motley group convenes to thrash out the entire year's paddling and event schedule, which is then published on this site. If you think the resultant schedule is interesting and well-thought-out, you should not watch this process. There is a complete list of the Committees and the people who chair them here. If you'd like a legal (as per our bylaws) description of the officers' duties, there is an excerpt here.

What do you do?

The Club has one regularly scheduled meeting each month, and a day paddle on Oahu every week or two. We also organize several three- to eight-day camping paddles on the "outer" islands each year. We have a two-day campout/party/ocean egg-hunt at Easter, three fishing competitions, a kayak sailing race, and a pigout Christmas party at the end of the year. Pretty busy all year long. We also do a couple of nighttime (full moon) paddles. We used to have one kayak surfing contest, but that is presently in hiatus. Perhaps in the future...

How long are your day paddles, and how difficult are they?

Most of the paddles are 7 to 10 miles long, but we also have beginner's "E Z Gliders" paddles and casual paddles of 1 to 2 miles. Only ocassionally do we have grinders of more than 10 miles, such as the "Big Kahuna" in Kaneohe (12 miles), and the ridiculous "Super Kahuna" (21 miles).
The difficulty of each individual paddle depends almost entirely on the weather each day. (See Paddle Ratings). We schedule our outings around to different shores at different times of the year to avoid direct exposure to rough or windy conditions, but Island weather is notoriously changable, and sometimes we guess wrong.
This is important: It is up to each paddler to assess the conditions on the day of the paddle in light of their own experience and ability, and make their own decision about launching! Before launching, each paddler must sign our printed waiver and agree to this. If there is a Small Craft Advisory or higher in effect (Nat'l. Weather Serv. - VHF Channel 1 or 2), the event is Officially Cancelled. Our lawyer told me to say that. But it's true.

Who is in charge of the "official" paddles?

Officially, no-one. Each paddle or trip has a designated "Agent" (we're avoiding the word "leader") who is the contact person for information about the paddle, such as meeting times and places, car pools, etc. and may or may not actually be out in front leading. The Agent is always a paddler who has done the trip before, but he or she is not your Mommy- each paddler is responsible for his or her self (see paragraph above). The Agents for the paddles are volunteers (sometimes draftees) and are not guides or professionals in any sense, and thus do not assume any (legal) responsibility or liability for fellow paddlers. Again, our lawyer wants me to make that clear...

What kind of boats do you use?

Since our beginnings were as a club for inflatables (easier to carry on inter-island airplanes, y'know), many of the members started with, and continue to use Seyvelors, Semperits, Metzelers, and the new Aires. Don't see Kleppers, Feathercraft or Folboats too often.
With the development of reliable polyethylene designs in the 90s, however, many members have switched to "sit-on-top" boats by Wave Witch, Aquaterra and Wilderness Systems, but the majority seem to have Ocean Kayaks products, the Scupper Pro model being the overwhelming favorite, followed by the two-seat Malibu and the wave-riding Scrambler.
Although a few members have them, the "traditional" sit-inside fiberglass boats are not very popular in Hawaii because of the danger of damage on rock landings. Fiberglass sit-on-tops (surfskis) are the craft of choice with the ocean racing crowd, but our members usually opt for the polyethylene (rotomolded) boats with cargo capability rather than speed.

Where and when do you meet?

We meet on the third Tuesday of each month at 7:00 PM. The meetings are held all over the place, but presently are held either at the Paki Hale on Paki Avenue, on the north side of Kapiolani Park, Honolulu, or at the Wellspring Church building in Halawa Valley. We also occasionally try different venues like Hawaii Kai, Pearl City and the Windward side. Those locations are announced here on the Home and Schedule pages. The December meeting is our Christmas Party and is usually held in more auspicious surroundings such as the Kaneohe Yacht Club or a private house. That location is announced here as soon as we decide, usually in October.

What happens at your meetings?

The first part of each meeting is taken up with Club business - discussion of past paddles, upcoming events and ongoing issues - for about 45 mins. Afterwards, there is a scheduled presentation, often a member's slide show of a recent camping paddle or excursion, but sometimes a guest speaker. Past meetings have featured archeologists, anthropologists and icthyologists, politicians, kayak manufacturers, authors, environmentalists and professional shark hunters. The only criteria are an interest in Hawaii (or the Pacific), the ocean and/or kayaks.

How do I join the club?

At this time, we do not have on-line registration, however, there is a PDF version of the application form (on the Lifeline page) that can be sent in with your check for a new or renewing membership. You can also join by filling out an application at Go Bananas Kayaks at 799 Kapahulu Ave in Honolulu, or at their Aiea branch at 98-390 Kamehameha Hwy, Aiea.

We are not actively recruiting non-resident members (although we have a few), but if you're in Hawaii (on Oahu), or live here, even part of the year, we do encourage you to attend our monthly meetings, meet the other members, and if still so inclined, join at that time. If you live on one of the neighbor islands, write to us at: PO Box 11588, Honolulu, HI 96828.

How much does membership cost?

A 12-month membership is $30 for a single person, and $40 for two people at the same address. (Please see the paragraph below about also joining the ACA.) There is a printable membership form on the site that you can mail in, or bring it to one of the General Meetings.

Are you affiliated with the American Canoe Association or Paddle America Club?

Hui Wa'a is a Paddle America Club (PAC) member. As of January 2010, in order to be protected by our Liability Insurance Policy, Club members must also be members of the American Canoe Association (ACA), a separate yearly subscription. You can join ACA at the time of application to HWK, or you can join independantly. We recommend that you join both at the same time, as there is a discount for joint membership. We do not, however, enforce ACA membership or check on current standing. It only becomes a problem if you attempt a libility claim against the Club, or if a member brings one against you. There is an informational brochure here and for more details, please visit their website

Do you have any commercial affiliations with kayak stores?

No. However, many of the staff, including the owner, of Go Bananas Kayaks on Kapahulu Ave ("Just 3 blocks from the Zoo!") are active members of Hui Wa'a Kaukahi, and the store has agreed to be our unofficial contact point. They also extend a discount to Club members on purchases there.
The owner of Twogood Kayaks in Kailua is also a Club member, and will offer a discount if you ask.

†Semantic note: The word "Steerage" has two marine-derived meanings, both perhaps applicable here: the first is the necessity of pointing (or paddling) a boat upwind or upcurrent from the target, so that the course actually travelled is a straight line to the intended destination; the second is the small, stuffy and dark compartment directly over the rudder in an ocean liner, historically offered as a deep-discount berth for travellers of low means. Seems somehow fitting...

"If you don't change your course, you'll end up where you're headed." - Chinese proverb

"Live long and prosper, and may the wind be always at your back" - Vulcan proverb